Proest in France. Photo credit: Jordan Bracco

COVID-19 vaccine anti-mandates birth raging protests throughout Europe

Violent riots and clashes with police forces across France, Netherlands, and Italy air growing malaise, while top government officials who oppose the mandate get sacked.

Predictions of a pandemic rerun are slowly, but swiftly creeping in, as is the case with Romania. While it is one of the poorest countries in the EU, the eastern European nation promotes a weak vaccination campaign in comparison to other regional countries.

Added to its issues, Romania is experiencing a trail of Covid-related deaths resulting in a warning that the much unsought fourth wave might just be around the corner. To that end, the numbers provide a feasible reason for the introduction of mandatory covid health passes in the region.

For months, the EU formulated anti-covid policies to get the economy and day-to-day lives of civilians back on track. However, there are citizens who adamantly reject the idea of mandatory covid passes. So much so, the fallout has resulted in some to engage in riots and civil unrest across afflicted states. 

“I think it is important to give us a choice, the vaccine is still in the experimental stage until 2023, so despite the global effort, there are too many questions remaining,” a protester said. “Honestly, I am scared of what’s going on.” 

On the contrary, whilst addressing dissenters, Italy’s Prime Minister Marco Draghi said at a press conference that “many people have been the subject of violence and hate from the ones who call themselves, ‘no vax’.” 

He continued by stating reasons as to why the government is set on mandatory green passes. “The economy is growing more than we expected,” expressed PM Draghi who was put into office after the previous prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, stepped down before the end of his tenure. The new prime minister surmised. “Even as we face this transition, our challenge is to maintain this growth.”

The demonstrations have prepared a foundation to question the political ethics of involved lawmakers, correspondingly challenging a libertarian and selfish idea of freedom amongst demonstrators. Ark Republic dives into some of the most affected nations in the EU.

France

On July 12, President Emmanuel Macron made it mandatory for all healthcare professionals to be fully vaccinated. He also pronounced the pass as a requirement for entry into restaurants, bars, trains, and planes. Recently, the government added public sites for the forthcoming winter period that might contribute to a skyrocket of infections. 

Even though polls show that the most comply with the mandate, fitful protests have been constant. Hundreds of thousands are executing demonstrations across various towns and cities to criticize the government for restricting the rights of the unvaccinated. Notably, there have been at least 200 protests with some panning out to end in bloody turbulence

In the streets of Toulouse, men with sticks attacked anti-mandate protestors, only to disappear once the police popped up at the scene. 

“We are creating a segregated society and I think it is unbelievable to be doing this in a country of human rights. I have never protested before in my life, but I think our freedom is in danger,” a protester expressed in video footage from Global News.

The focal point of demonstrations was a video circulated in over 15 languages claiming that the police joined in the protests.“The French police marched with demonstrators demanding to stop the blockades and mandatory vaccinations,” an Italian citizen tweeted.

However, this thought was disapproved by Frédéric Le Louette, the president of the gendarme’s association GENDXXI. In an interview with France 24, he confirmed that “Gendarmes are soldiers, they aren’t allowed to protest even if they are wearing civilian clothes, and certainly not in uniform.” Adding, he explained that the video showed classic protest management. 

Nonetheless, France’s government is preparing a law that would allow officials to continue imposing the health pass. If necessary, the pass would be in effect until next summer, thus calling it a key measure for avoiding another lockdown that would cripple a fragile economic recovery.

Italy

The Italian government takes the utmost lead by mandating the vaccine for public and private sector workers.

As per the polls, 80.04 percent of the Italian population over 12-years-old completed the vaccination course. Similar to France, thousands of rally-goers, including members of far-right groups, marched in objection to the new decree near the Italian parliament in Rome. 

Hastily turning violent, the police swung batons at demonstrators using water pans and tear gas to disperse the crowds. One of the protestors made headlines, as he tried to break into PM Draghi`s office. Others made failed attempts to break into Italy’s main trade union`s office

Some of the anti-vax demonstrators raised banners quoting Article 32 of the Italian constitution which protects the right of choice

“I consider this criminal and cowardly blackmail by our highest institutions,” said Rome resident Maria Ballarin.

With this in mind, the decree stays unaffected. From October 15 through the end of the year, any worker failing to present their health vaccine certificate to their employer will be suspended without pay for up to five days or be liable to fines up to €1,500, but will not be fired. 

Netherlands

The Dutch Government introduced the corona pass late last month. The regulations made it compulsory to get into bars, restaurants, theatres, and other venues. In response, hundreds of protestors in Hague, marched against the corona-pass, referring to it as “medical apartheid.” 

Not only are the protests physical, but more than 40 percent of bar and restaurant owners do not plan to ask customers for a certificate. 

During the upheavals, Prime Minister Mark Rutte sacked Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Mona Keijzer who had publicly questioned the measure. She explained that it was ‘not explainable’ to entrepreneurs.

In an interview with De Telegraaf, she said, “If we end up in a society where we have to be afraid of each other unless we can show proof, then you have to scratch your head and ask yourself, is this the direction we want to go?” 

Following the bid to delete or adjust the corona pass, a Dutch court dismissed a call to scrap the ‘corona pass’ clarifying that it is not clear that there is a difference in treatment for which no objective, reasonable reason exists.

Recently, new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose 2 percent

According to government sources, the outgoing cabinet dares not to cancel the pass at the beginning of November if the pressure from corona-positive patients receiving care remains as it is now. 

From the commentaries and actions by lawmakers who refuse to back down, the passed laws appear to be solid. Whereas Italy’s PM referred to the protests as a deliberate drag on economic progress, the Netherlands sacked top government officials who opposed mandates. 

At the same time, France officials are turning a blind eye to the ongoing nationwide protests. It would be fair to say that those who stand firmly against new COVID restrictions might ultimately have to resort to new ideas. In rare circumstances, lawmakers might adjust the restrictions. All-in-all, the rules don’t appear to be modifiable any time soon.

Nyawira Mithayo is a Journalism graduate with an interest in Community activism.

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